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Saturday, July 4, 2009


I am not pro-American. Far from it. I did recently pass up on an all-expense-paid trip courtesy of my Aunt to California and Las Vegas this August because of prior commitments. I don't want to sound ungrateful, I do miss my relatives in the States, but really I'm not big on visiting California or Las Vegas. I would definitely want to see New York someday though. Anyway, this post is about growing up Pinoy albeit with an 'American' sensibility. I think.

My Manileno friends in college at the UP Baguio often chided me for being too 'American'. You see, growing up in Baguio in the 70s, we spoke English at home. My parents had instilled in us the use of the English Language because we would fare better in school -- English being the medium of instruction in our predominantly American, if not Belgian, educational system up north. My contemporaries and the older generation would attest to this. We did pride ourselves for speaking, writing and thinking in our impeccable "Baguio-English".

Now Baguio being a Colonial Hill Station established by the Americans has its unique character not seen in the entire archipelago. And this is ingrained in our lifestyle as well. Although predominantly Catholic -- we don't parade our santos during Holy Week or other fiestas. Ditto the presence of penitents. Or other acts of sanctity. I think the American Protestant ethic had permeated well into Baguio's psyche -- all the better I would say.

For one, my grandparents' generation frowned on hypocrisy. The type where someone like Imelda would publicly announce on an occasion like her 80th birthday that she is 'sincerely' sending get-well wishes and offering prayers to someone like, say, Cory Aquino. Oh no, in Baguio the older generation of gentlemen and ladies would behave more prudently. Dona Victorina would be ostracized in Baguio. No matter how much she would kiss-ass to the Americans. The Americans introduced the public school system, instilling in us all that education is a right, not a privilege. The American missionaries/teachers were also egalitarian, not feudal like their Spanish counterparts.

It is this same 'small-town-america' ethic, I think, that made us keep our noses to ourselves. Never the lot to gossip about our neighbors or pry into their private lives if we weren't asked to. Something I find utterly intrusive down here in Manila where every juan and maria thinks and feels they're entitled to what little personal space I already have. And struggling to protect. For example, I hate it when riding a jeepney that is almost empty and the next person who boards sits right next to you, his or her legs nudging you. Then he/she hands you his/her fare for you to go all the way to the driver to deliver. What the...?! Or how about all the pushing and shoving in grocery stores, department stores, the market, MRT? In Baguio, good manners was and is everyone's business and not reserved only for the rich and educated, as is the excuse down here in Manila (kasi wala silang pinag-aralan).

There are other lessons we have imbibed from our American founders. Cheating of all sorts was frowned upon and severely punished in school. Either in the classroom or out in the grounds during playtime. The social stigma of shame was in place. Something our politicians especially GMA have failed to heed.

Empathy is another thing we exercised up North. And still do today. We give to the less fortunate without being self-righteous about it. We give neighbors a ride during a rainstorm. We send over food to our sick friends. There was a time that the only beggars you would see in downtown were the blind singing and smiling their hearts out. There were no street children in Baguio. Or street adults for that matter. What big shock it was for me the first time I studied in Manila and saw the countless babies and kids being tended by their emaciated mothers or grandmothers out in the streets of Quezon City begging for food. I was terribly disturbed to tears at how all the rich folk in Manila seem to take the needy for granted.

Up north we value courtesy. We queue in the post office, in the grocery, in City Hall. Palakasan I believe was introduced by corrupt politicians during Marcos time. We are courteous people when driving in Baguio. We are mindful of pedestrians. We abide by traffic rules and speed limits. Even our taxi drivers give the exact change to passengers -- something totally amiss in Metro Manila.

The list can go on. Why am I comparing this experience to Imperial Manila? Because Manila is the seat of power, economically and politically. And Metro Manila, in all its polluted and corrupt state, sadly carries our national character. I am writing this now as I am bothered by Randy David's column in the Inquirer today. Please click on link below.

I am Filipino. And I am proud to be one. I may not speak Pilipino eloquently or wear the barong tagalog on a regular basis, but no one can doubt my being Filipino.

And I can make a mean adobo. Anyone care for some?

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him." -- Abraham Lincoln


  1. oh martin, i can relate with your baguio-manila experience. one can't help but compare the way we live up north from how the people in this urban jungle conduct themselves - para ba akong tao pag umuuwi ako.

  2. o.a. ka naman hehe... my friends down here make life worth living it in this hot place... besides... when push comes to shove... remember our mantra: DEDMA!!!

    Thanks for commenting


  3. Don't you too think that the best traits of the Mountain peoples influenced the character of Baguio? Especially with many of those you mentioned, civic pride, good manners, etc. I think that the best of the American and the best local traits complimented each other and encouraged/nurtured to create something that is/was unique to the Philippines. You could see the same type of thing evolving in Sagada of the early 70's.

  4. @Waldo... I agree, and the Americans and Igorots got along precisely because they were more refined in manners than the lowly spanish and spanish-brainwashed-filipinos.

    Must have something to do with the cool climate.


    ps: you've gone down this far?

  5. @Waldo... Yes Sagada... the quintessential Northern hamlet of tranquility, bohemia, peace and... oh but that was the 70's until them tourists came and commercialized everything!

  6. Marts, I like this post very much.Why? Bec I can relate to the politeness and all teh things you mention about us up in the North. I remember wondering why the Manila people thought we must have finished at an International school bec we spoke mayat nga English adi...they thought we were mayaman. I said, "No, we all speak this way..hahaha..." and its not about being rich. Its just how we were trained.". Ay apu. Enjoying your work. salamat:)

  7. I agree on all contents of this text as I experienced it first hand, being a Manileno who settled in UP Fac HOuse in Baguio way back year 1996, i have learned the righteousness of the people of Baguio. I totally respect them and certainly emulate their ways. I ve fallen deeply in love with Baguio that I make it my pilgrimage to visit the lovely city at least once a year. When I saw you in Rumors Baguio last time Martin that was my visit this year the first one and I intend to do same again in the next few months. Although I must say those things have changed and I have seen such difference in the place commercialism has slowly taken over the city and that goes with it is the deterioration of some values of some people living in there. But still Baguio has a special place in me.

  8. Thanks Erick for your feedback... hope to meet you in person next time you go up to Baguio. Watch our play at UP Baguio on all four weekends of September...

  9. seems you forgoten me its dick, unfortunately im still not in Phils by sept so cant watch your plays. Anyway Im sure I will see you again, if not in Baguio it will be for sure in Malate. Your site is fantastic I enjoy reading, de-stressing. Bravo!

  10. @Dick... your photo's too small... didn't recognize you.